China steps up weeklong naval, airpower demonstrations near Taiwan
Stars and Stripes September 14, 2023
China’s military sent scores of ships and planes near Taiwan for a fifth day Thursday, its largest show of force since April, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.
Between 6 a.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, Taiwan’s military monitored 68 Chinese aircraft and 10 ships in the waters and airspace around the island, the ministry said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Forty of the aircraft crossed the Tawain Strait’s median line and entered the island’s air defense identification zone from the southwest and southeast, the ministry said.
Farther west, the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, two frigates, two destroyers and a support ship were in the Philippine Sea on Wednesday, approximately 400 miles south of Miyako Island, Japan’s Joint Staff said in a news release that day.
Japan’s military observed fighter jets and helicopters taking off and landing on the carrier, the Joint Staff said.
Thursday marked the largest number of Chinese aircraft operating near Taiwan since April 11, during a three-day series of drills that encircled the island. Taipei said it tracked 91 Chinese aircraft and a dozen ships that day.
The April exercise, which included live-fire drills and simulated strikes on Taiwanese targets, was Beijing’s response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California the week prior. Between Aug. 8 and April 11, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported at least 70 aircraft and nine ships near the island each day.
China’s air and naval forces have kept up pressure on Taiwan since Sunday. The island’s forces tracked 35 aircraft on Wednesday; 27 aircraft and 13 ships on Tuesday; 22 aircraft and 20 ships on Monday; and 26 aircraft and 13 ships on Sunday, according to a series of reports from Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
The scale of Chinese military activities has “constantly increased this year” and is intended as a political deterrent and a demonstration of China’s “level of readiness,” Norah Huang, director for international relations at the Prospect Foundation, a security and foreign affairs think tank in Taipei, told Stars and Stripes in an email Thursday.
Beijing’s recent actions are likely a response to a joint U.S.-Canada transit of the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, Huang said by email Tuesday.
China considers the 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait its territorial waters and views the functionally democratic island as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland.
Beijing is “unwaveringly determined to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity” and considers Taiwan to be “an inalienable part” of its territory, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a news conference Wednesday. A readout of her remarks was posted online by the ministry.
“Relevant sides should immediately stop such provocative acts and stop being a troublemaker disrupting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” she said, referring to the U.S.-Canada transit of the strait.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.